from the circle of love
by Elizabeth Jennings
cooking us superb meals. I did not realise till later just how much she was also doing behind the scenes.
On Christmas Eve evening, Jill and I went to visit a remarkable character called Wendy. She was Jill's grocer, and she had a sick husband. She was immensely fond of contemporary verse and bought many volumes of it. When we arrived at her house, we found it full of her relations. But we were welcomed at once with wine and cake and crystallised fruits. On the way to Wendy's we had passed the Catholic Church and I was very surprised to find it locked up. It was. I suppose, all ready for Midnight Mass,
To meet someone like Wendy was a privilege. and indeed the Whole of this particular Christmas had a special bloom upon it. When we returned to the Day Lewis's house in Greenwich, we were quickly given another splendid meal. That night. I kept saying to Jill and Cecil -Let me help you with the children's stockings," but they hustled me off to bed. Luisa. the au pair girl from Spain had, by this time, also gone to bed.
The next morning, I was woken by Jill and Tamsin rushing into my bedroom, crying, "Elizabeth. Father Christmas has been to visit you," and offering me a bulky stocking_ They. and Luisa (who had also had a stocking), sat on the bed and watched me
open it. It was crammed with good things. ranging from airmail envelopes to sweets, And every single thing was wrapped up in a separate parcel. I was so overcome with gratitude that I almost wanted to cry.
At breakfast, the family hand their presents to each other. Jill asked me when I would like my main present from them and I said. In the afternoon. please." This was a time when I was accustomed to having my chief presents when I was a child. We all sat round the breakfast-table and, first of all. Tamsin and Dan gave presents to their father and mother. I remember that Dart gave his mother a special kind of pen which she had been looking for for ages, and Tamsin presented her wonderful garment.
Jill tried it on at once! Tarnsin gave Cecil the Giles cartoon book and a china tankard, and Dan gave him a pair of most tastefully coloured sock:. Luisa gave Jill a set of cooking utensils, and Cecil a book called The' Arts of Spain.
For Dan. Cecil and Jill had bought three gaily coloured shirts, into one of which (also with Tamsin's corduroy trousers). he changed immediately. Jill gave Cecil a book about flowers and gramophone records, and he gave her some beautiful earrings.
In the afternoon, everyone had all their other presents. The children seemed to have dozens and dozens of them. from books to clothes to sweets. Jill and Cecil had marvellous gifts too, including. I remember, two bottles of Chateau Neuf du Pape. They gave me a beautiful sweater and an omnibus volume of Cecil's detective stories, written under the name of Nicholas Blake.
This Christmas seemed to be a real child's Paradise; nothing was omitted and Tarnsin had dressed the tree herself. We had Christmas dinner at night and there were nine of us. Two delightful young men were there and they insisted that, when the splendid meal was over. we played charades. We played the complicated kind which is connected with quotations, but we had many long laughs, nonetheless.
The children stayed up for the charades and I know that their very presence gave an extra gaiety to everything. In private, Dan confided to me: "I think the best thing about this Christmas was the stockings. I've never had such a good one before." His stocking had been loaded with animals,
aeroplanes, packs of false cards, imitation dollar notes, and numerous other things.
Such can be the joys of a really happy family Christmas. The first necessity is, I am sure, the presence of children, and the second, a general spirit of goodwill and gentleness toward everyone.
A great spirit of Christian loving-kindness hung over this particular Christmas and perhaps this is the memory shall keep longest about it. Everyone was gentle and generous, no one was omitted from the circle of love -for that is what it was. Cecil read his poems whenever demanded special ones, and Jill also gave me poetry reading.
I remember Tamsin listening with great concentration to all this.
This, now, is my ideal mainly because there were children about. It was a real feast, a time of jollification and sweetness of heart.
Christmas is a time when children suddenly come to the fore. The Baby, the Virgin Mother, St. Joseph and the animals — all of these are essentially for them. Only if we enter into a state of mind where a direct, cloudless vision is possible, can we really understand Christmas.
And Christmas, too, is the time when incompatible things come together — the God come down to human simplicities and the burst cracker. Many people, as they grow older, become cynical about Christmas. It seems to them, perhaps. just a time when one
eats turkey and drinks slightly
Such things do not have any place in a child's world, though he may, indeed, eat his turkey and pull his cracker with an authentic delight. But these things are not the essential ones for him.
I shalt never forget my happy Christmas with the generous Day Lewises. I hope to repeat it this year. I am quite sure that I shall not be disappointed.